MTV aims to increase the number of young voters with an early voting campaign ahead of this year’s midterm elections, which will decide control of Congress for the next two years.
The global media giant’s “Early Voting is Easier” plan targets voters on college campuses, a group that has historically faced barriers to voting.
Young voters were a key part of the coalition that ousted former President Donald Trump from office and elected President Joe Biden in 2020. With control of Congress at stake in 2022, no party is likely to win enough seats to control the legislature without young Americans. .
“I think for people going to college right out of high school, your first vote will be during your four years of college,” said Jasmine Young, 23, a graduate student in data science at Duke University. . The university has partnered with MTV this election cycle on a study of college voting access.
“I was interested in working on this project, because I … had a hard time voting myself while in school and understanding this process,” said Young, a researcher at Campus Voting Access. Project.
The early voting campaign is part of helping young people come of age and transition into adulthood, said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios.
“A big part of that is understanding your power and registering to vote and being an active member of your community,” McCarthy said.
MTV is working with civic engagement groups and student partners on a campus challenge that draws on new research, expands on-site survey options for students through an open-source toolkit, and ultimately mobilizes young voters to return to the polls once again.
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Rising turnout among young voters
Historically, young Americans vote at lower rates than older generations. But in recent years, voter turnout rates among young people have increased.
Young adults saw the biggest increase in turnout in the 2020 presidential election.
About half of young adults aged 18 to 29 voted, according to the Brookings Institution. During the 2018 midterm elections, 18-29 year olds had a 36% voter turnoutitself a 16 percentage point increase from the 2014 midterms.
Kelly Beadle, impact and outreach manager at Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research in Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), said the record level of youth voting in 2020 could bode well for the midterms.
“One unique thing about the 2022 election is that we’re starting the year with more young people who participated before this midterm than we’ve seen in decades,” Beadle said. “So it’s a bit of a different time in terms of youth civic participation.”
Closing the gap between registrations and votes
MTV hopes to keep the momentum going through the midpoints of 2022.
Brianna Cayo Cotter, senior vice president of social impact at MTV Entertainment Group, said during the 2020 election it became clear that while voter registration is important, it won’t help increase voter turnout. participation of young voters.
“The vast majority of young people are actually already registered to vote. And the problem we really had to solve was how to bridge the gap between voter registration and actual voter turnout.” said Cayo Cotter.
More than half of US citizens between the ages of 18 and 24, 59.8%, are registered to vote, according to the United States Census Bureau. But only 51.4% of them actually voted in 2020.
The percentage of U.S. citizens between the ages of 25 and 44 registered to vote is 70.1%, and just over three-quarters of those between the ages of 45 and 64, or 75.7%, are registered to vote. elections. Nearly 80% of citizens aged 65 to 74 are registered to vote and for those aged 75 and over, 77.8% are registered to vote.
Cayo Cotter said voting before election day has become a solution to increase youth turnout.
But research shows lack of means of transport and inconvenient electoral barriers interfered with students’ ability to vote. Therefore, MTV is working with various organizations and students to increase access to on-site voting locations.
MTV launched a pilot election program in 2020 with advocacy groups Campus Vote Project, the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition and the Alliance for Youth Organizing to expand voting sites on college campuses, with participating students working in 14 states .
Data from Tufts revealed that campuses that participated in the pilot program voted four percentage points higher than the national average in 2020.
No voting on campus
More recently, the results of Duke and MTV’s Campus Voting Access Project have been striking.
“In general, we found that most college campuses did not have an on-campus election day voting option, and even more campuses did not have an on-campus early voting option,” said Young, one of the Duke University research students.
Preliminary results showed that of the 35 states where Election Day polling information is available, 74% of college campuses had no in-person on-campus voting options and 90% had no on-campus voting options. early voting options in the 2020 election. At least 6.6 million students were affected.
Students at two-year community colleges were more likely to bear the brunt of this lack of access than students at four-year institutions.
Preliminary results also showed that 46% of four-year colleges had polling places more than a mile away.
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“With the results that we got from our exercise, we can actually find out where there is a lack of access to polling places and that can be mapped. You can see things in areas that are quite good, fairly low access, high access points,” said Pranav Manjunath, a Duke University student in the research team.
Dapo Adegbile, a member of the research team, said that because the results showed where underserved campuses are, it can help find solutions.
“I think the goal is to highlight the discrepancies and eventually resolve them. And I think resolving them comes down to trying to get more polling stations in those places,” Adegbile said.
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MTV works with Campus Vote Project, a program of the Fair Elections Center, on a 2022 campus challenge to increase early voting options on campuses. The work will focus on historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, two-year community colleges, and large public universities.
“We thought we would start there. [with two-year community colleges] because it’s definitely a population that’s time-constrained,” McCarthy said. “And if we can make it easier for them to get involved and have a voice, hopefully we can get them involved…where becoming a voter is part of their identity.”
Students interested in advocating for voting locations on campus can use MTV’s open-source toolkit at Challenge.VotingEarlyisEasier.com to help. Other incentives offered by MTV include grants for Vote Early Day celebrations and tickets to this year’s VMAs.
Make voting a habit
Amanda Wintersieck, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, said efforts like MTV’s early voting campaign are important because they help young adults form lifelong voting habits.
“The other benefit of this type of voter turnout effort is that most of the time voters don’t vote because they’re not asked,” Wintersieck said. “And so it’s really important to reach out to historic abstainer groups and make it clear that their vote matters, that their participation is wanted, and that they are welcome at the polls.”
Beadle also said it’s important to help young voters stay registered if they move frequently.
“I hope efforts like MTV will help bring suites of online tools to young people so they can essentially do all of this in one place – check their recording status, update their recording within 41 States that allow you to do it online and then request an absentee ballot,” Beadle added.
MTV has already launched Vote early, a new national day of celebration intended to encourage Americans to vote early, on October 24, 2020. The campaign originally brought together more than 60 partners to educate young voters about what their state laws relate to early voting. . This year, Vote Early Day will take place on October 28.
Cayo Cotter said the campaign exceeded expectations and attracted more than 2,700 partners.
“We were really onto something there, and we spent the last year really helping figure out how to create a more permanent home and infrastructure for the early days of voting,” Cayo Cotter said.
Wintersieck said it was important to arm young voters with knowledge and the importance of voting.
“If you want to see a shift in power and a shift in representation, then we need to arm our young people with the knowledge that these are systems that are intentionally put in place to exclude them,” Wintersieck said. “It’s going to take extra work on their part to get to the polls to elect the people they want to see in those offices.”